Tag Archives: Lessons learned

Why the Modern, Independent Woman Identifies with Blair Waldorf: Gossip Girl 10-year anniversary!

I first discovered Gossip Girl in high school. I was a latecomer to the party. And spent most of one Christmas break binge watching the preceding seasons. I couldn’t pull myself away.

I rediscovered the show long after it had ended – and then again this  year. I had missed the last season or two; but I had gathered from social media that “Chuck Bass is dead. No wait, actually he’s not.”

Needless to say, I now know the show very well and have taken a liking to one character in particular: Blair Waldorf.

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Hate her or love her, this month marks the 10 year anniversary of the start of the first ever season of Gossip Girl. This piece resonates with me. And I would like to share with you why I feel that Blair is the perfect proxy for the young, ambitious, independent woman (note: not girl).

1.Blair taught us what it can mean to ‘have it all’

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The concept of “Having it all” has taken on a slightly different meaning for millennial women, such as myself. We went from despising the term – we read and still love Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean in’ – to thinking ‘Perhaps this term isn’t so bad – if one defines it right’.

I am of the generation who were at the age to be watching Gossip Girl during those formative high school years. And unbeknownst to me, for whatever reason, something stuck – because many years later I returned to the show – in part – with a brand new set of eyes.

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Long gone are the days that women had to choose between having a successful career, being taken seriously and financially independent and having a ‘family’ – potentially wealthy husband and a couple of lovely children. Today we know we can have it all – it is largely the norm for women to work regardless of if they have children.

But Blair showed us another level of having it all.

She had the passionate love affair, wealthy boyfriend, and after inheriting her mums company worked very hard, independently, to make a success of it. She set the bar very high. She faced people assuming/suggesting that her standards were indeed too high. But she met them. And she achieved inconceivable success.

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Most importantly, despite her young romance and SPOILER ALERT – getting married and settling down very early in life – she had a man who understood her ambition; and had his own. They both knew they had important milestones to achieve before settling down. But their ‘love’ was strong enough to sustain this – and wisdom prevailed. Despite ups and downs, they waited until they were each successful in their own rite before settling down. And that is the next level of ‘having it all’.

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On that note, Blair was also not afraid to love, and show it. She declared her love with boldness. She followed her heart, but she followed her mind too.

2. Fighting for it

There’s no denying that Blair came from privilege. Nonetheless, unlike Nate Archibald, Blair was not a Vanderblit. Her connections and influence did not have anywhere near the same kind of reach. Unlike her on-off-on-again heartthrob lover, Chuck Bass – she had no Empire to inherit.

In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that compared to many of her on screen comrades, Blair’s financial background was relatively modest. Her conscious or subconscious awareness of this may be why she overcompensated with additional snobbery, the ever-visible presence of Dorota, adamant rejection of Brooklyn, always beautiful, intentional outfits; not to mention her ‘minions’.

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Her mother was a very successful designer, but those connections only went so far; particularly outside of the fashion industry. Case in point: after Blair’s short-lived marriage to Louis, his family’s dowry would have bankrupt her family. But Chuck paid it off in secret. Serena could date or marry whomever she wanted without fear of a change in lifestyle, as her grandmother, Cece’s money would last for “generations”. Blair was in. Blair was the same – particularly in the short term. Money doesn’t buy class – and Blair had class in abundance. But, Blair had to fight, and she knew it.

So, she FOUGHT. Blair knew the woman she wanted to be. And that woman was not ‘good enough’. She was the BEST. She fought for that internship at ‘The W’ – as she did not have any particular advantage in journalism despite boundless persistence. This might partially explain Blair’s ‘scheming’.

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Blair will fight for love, she will fight for success, she will fight for power. She will, unapologetically, fight for whatever she wants.

3. Blair is a real woman

Make no mistake, Blair is, in every way, absolutely gorgeous. She is elegant, regal, has perfect skin, beautiful eyes and knows it, too. But, in some way, she is also accessible. She is not the perfect, tall, blonde, fabulous, effortless and seemingly unattainable, Serena Van Der Woodsen . Somehow, it is easier to see oneself in Blair. It almost feels as though she has yet to come to a place of full awareness of self. And that is something that many of us can relate to.

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Blair wakes up in the morning, puts herself together – often with the help of Dorota – and looks amazing all the time. But she suffers emotions, too. She ‘wears’ a brave face, just like many of us do. She hides if she can, but she she shows up when she knows she MUST. You get the sense that she is still battling her emotional troubles – even when she smiles. And you realise that she is not simply ‘high maintenance’ for the sake of it. She is ‘high maintenance’ because being Blair is hard. It takes effort to get up in the morning, and commit as well as strive to be the best in every aspect of her life. It takes effort to be Blair.

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4. She always has a plan but she is still finding her path

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One gets the impression that most of the time Blair is not ‘living for the moment’. She is sparingly spontaneous. She is aware of the effects of her actions – even when her actions are manifested in a less than savoury type of ‘scheming’. Her intelligence and love of the arts and literature drew her to Dan Humphrey in later seasons. And even she didn’t fully understand why; or how to interpret that friendship. So she hid it, she questioned herself, she misinterpreted her own feelings, she misinterpreted his feelings and, as goes life in its cyclical way, she ultimately returned and found her centre once again. Although seemingly unexpected, this kind of episode is typical of Blair. Just like with Louis. She might have a good idea as to who or what she loves, but he doesn’t yet know what she wants.

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And yes, denial is part of it, but for the most part, Blair just doesn’t know how to feel. And has the tendency to place more importance on the feelings and expectations of others.

We know little of her most private thoughts. But we all know that Blair spends a lot of time thinking about the future. Focussed, fixated. But simultaneously, not entirely sure what it holds. She knows the kind of woman she wants to become, and like many of us, is still forging her path.

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Nonetheless, she does this with the utmost, outward confidence. And somehow, that too, is aspirational. Blair taught us: ‘You don’t need to know what it is yet, but if you can see it, if you can see the faintest glimmer, you can have it. And you should ALWAYS chase your dreams.’

Chuck and Blair decided they wanted to find their individual paths of success independently, first. And this formed the foundation of her relationship – although imperfect – Blair selected a man who is powerful, masculine, loving, liberal and who supports her hopes, dreams and ambitions.

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We all came to love Chuck Bass, whether or not we cared to admit it to ourselves, but we loved him for who he was to Blair.

 

Have an amazing day!

– Chonye 

 

 

 

Image links are available upon request 🙂

 

Dealing with guilt and self-depreciation: A series of questions

A seven-step guide to taking care of yourself.

Dealing with self-hate, cultivating a spirit of self-love and avoiding subconscious self-sabotage. I wrote this for myself, I needed this. And now I offer it to you.

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Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you still alive?
  2. Is it that bad?
  3. Against whose criterion are you really evaluating yourself?
  4. What are the realistic worst possible consequences of the particular action/s
  5. Forgetting the past, what steps can you take to mitigate any realistic damages?
  6. Is there any possibility that your sentiments exist within a vacuum of self-doubt, pity and self-hatred; or that your evaluation of self is based on the arbitrary standards of others or warped social norms?
  7. It’s not easy, but work to forgive yourself. Your forgiven self is the most capable version of yourself to move forward, find solutions and mitigate damages.

Cheers, peace & love.

 

– Chonye

A Reflection, a tribute: Muhammad Ali

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, in Louisville Kentucky, 1942, the man known as “The Greatest: Muhammad Ali” was pronounced dead today, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease.

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He told himself he was the greatest before he ever was. He worked harder, longer, smarter than anyone else. He overcame every obstacle and disadvantage the world had set before him before birth, and after. He was hated, he was loved. But he said he was The Greatest before he ever was; and he became what he said. He became the greatest.

I am a person of habit. Today, Saturday morning the 4th June, I woke up, made my coffee: milk, no sugar. I turned on my iPad to see the day’s news. And there it was. One of the most audacious, inspirational men of our generation, a black man, who dared to be the best. Today he is gone.

Growing up with my mother, an avid (closet) boxing fan, I knew that I could not stay silent about this. I knew this news would shake up my household, at least a little. And I knew, almost as a duty, that I need to honour his memory; and his life.

Such is the nature of life. We are here today; gone tomorrow. But his memory will live on; it must live on. This is my contribution: what I have learned from Mr Ali, the vital lessons for life that I hope will never be lost. Not on this generation, nor the next.

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(Source: Entrepello.com)

  1. From birth, the world will try to tell you who you are. You define your identity; you define who you are.

“My name is not Clay. Clay is the name of the people who owned my ancestors. My name is Cassius X.”

Mr Ali had a unique ability to see the world beyond his disadvantages. He decided he would shape his life the way that he wanted, regardless of if any had done so successfully before him. He rejected the identity society placed on him; and he rejected it wholly.

He decided that he, and only he, would define his destiny. He fought the status quo. He tried to please no one.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”

A beautiful motto, and if any, word for word, it is one to live by.

 

  1. Never, ever give up. 

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit’. Suffer now and live he rest of your life as a champion.”

Do what you dislike, and do it first. If you have the audacity to dream big, if you have the audacity to see yourself achieving your ultimate goal in your mind’s eye; you had better be willing to work hard, make great sacrifices and be very uncomfortable along the way.

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(Source: i.huffpost.com)

  1. Gratitude

“I’ve been everywhere in the world, seen everything, had everything a man can have.”

In my opinion, it is vital to actively exercise gratitude. I keep a gratitude journal; and have found that focusing on what I have, on my blessings, helps me to position and orientate my mind in the direction of my goals, but more importantly, steer it away from negativity, thoughts of inadequacy, complaints and excuses.

Actively practicing gratitude helps me to get my focus right.

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out: it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

 

  1. Failure only makes you stronger; so long as you do not fail in your mind.

“Only a man who knows what it is to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”

In life you will experience many failures; unless you never put yourself in the position to fail. If you are in the ring, you will, at some point be defeated. But an incident of defeat should never create a personality of defeat. Defeat should never be internalized in that way. You have only truly lost once you have lost the battle of will, heart and mind.

I learned this the hard way. But sometimes, the hard way is the best way to learn.

 

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(Source: boxingjunkie.usatoday.com)

 

  1. Set your mind to your goals and then align your words

My favourite Muhammad Ali quote of all time:

“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

Great words spoken by a great man, who knew something that the world at large did not. I have no doubt that his lessons, and legacy will live on. And, that each one of us, in this short, fickle affair we call life, will be able to use it to impact others after us. That our time on this earth will not be wasted. But that it will be an asset to our families, communities and mankind.

As was the life of the The Greatest, Mr Muhammad Ali.

 

– Chonye